Sophie van Hattem shares her thoughts on returning to Perth to take up a position in Timpano Legal after the Pilbara:
Coming back from a stint practising criminal law in the Pilbara, it would be normal to expect significant differences in how the legal system operates, the clients who need advice, the most common charges, and plenty more. I’ve certainly noticed a few dissimilarities since returning to Perth, not least of all that there are more options for a coffee on one block of Hay Street than there are in all of South Hedland.
What doesn’t change is that all people, whoever they are or wherever they come from, can find themselves in a difficult situation. My advice to all members of the community, regardless of employment and social status, or financial situation, is that if or when that does happen, it’s always okay to ask for help. More than that, if you don’t ask for help when you need it, you can find yourself in a lot more trouble down the track.
Whilst the law is there for the safety of the entire community, it certainly isn’t always user-friendly and in fact it can be downright difficult to understand. What often happens is that this creates the temptation to put off dealing with it, and unfortunately I’ve seen too many people put off getting advice early and finding themselves in a more serious predicament as a result. As much as we might wish it, ignoring fines or court dates doesn’t make them go away, and chances are it will actually create more issues to deal with.
What I’ve learnt is that when people find themselves in this situation, they need support, advice, and most of all, a real and honest assessment of where they stand and what outcome is the most likely. Those conversations can be hard, but they are invaluable in the long run.
So, my goal remains the same regardless of where I am, which is to help clients to understand their legal position so that they can make fully informed choices. To do my job and deliver the best service, I want our clients to come to the process with an honest and open mind. In return, I’ll offer the same. My role is not to judge (the legal system has other people for that).